Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Opportunity cost is real

Money doesn't grow on trees, and if and when progressives return to power in this country, we will face hard choices, no matter how much we soak the rich. Leaders like Bernie Sanders should not be pushing the wrong choices, no matter how salient and rhetorically appealing some of them may be. Case in point: cancelling all student debt.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Singing in English

Not always the best idea. If I had to pick my favorite musician, Rubén Blades would be right up there. His gig with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra included some typically Rubénesque gems, such as this one... which includes the bonus of Winton going all salsa c. 3:40. On the other hand, you have Rubén singing "Too Close for Comfort," and "I Can't Give You Anything but Love," and "They Can't Take That Away from Me," in which he sounds quite a bit like a middling Tony Bennett impersonator. I doubt it was intended.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Early Rubens

Now at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco– a fine little museum in a spectacular setting, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and what must be one of the world's loveliest golf courses (?!). This version of his Raising of the Cross, a later, smaller rendering of an earlier triptych, was my favorite piece. The energy and tension ripple across the painting.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Alameda County Fair

I love county fairs, from the goat judging to the pig racing to the bunnies to the ferris wheel to the quilts, pies, and jelly jars to the gut-wrenchingly disgusting yet somehow perniciously tempting food-booth items, such as deep-fried shrimp-on-a-stick dipped in Fruity Pebbles. Now in California we can add the splendid influence of our Latinx immigrant population, with live mariachi, banda, Modelo, and tamales-eating contests. Alameda County has got to be one of the most diverse counties in the USA: the great California melting pot, everybody having fun. And a 10-year-old 4-H-er named Yashvi can take first place in the craft competition with a Hot Dog Stuffed Animal. If that doesn't make you proud to be an American, I can't imagine what possibly would.


Who knows whether Facebook bucks will take off, but regardless, I will forever think of Libra as the title of Don DeLillo's fantastic paranoid thriller about Lee Harvey Oswald and the JFK assassination. Of course, Facebook would never inspire paranoia!

Monday, June 17, 2019

"Don't worry 'bout the President, he can't stop us now"

A nice groove to feed whatever optimism you have left.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The best breakfast in Palo Alto

Halwa puri at Zareen's... weekends only! Happy Father's Day to me!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Fuzzy things

A couple of our nice fuzzy native plants...
Cirsium occidentale: cobweb thistle. I grew it from seed!

Clematis lasiantha: pipestem, between its lovely creamy flower and its appealing puffball stages...

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 89

I've been listening to the Murray-Allen-Carrington Power Trio recording, Perfection, and the album title is not far off. Here's a studio recording of the title track, with a couple of guests. It's not my favorite track on the album– Craig Harris gets things off to a slow start– but it gives an idea of what they're up to. David Murray sounds like... David Murray... always first-rate, never phoning it in. Terri Lyne Carrington is a drummer to be reckoned with. Geri Allen (RIP) was more of a chameleon... she could do sophisticated or New Age-y, Ellington or Evans, and she could do fists, elbows, and glissandos. This was the dream trio for her talents– one more reason to lament her premature death at age 50.

Saturday, June 8, 2019


The humble little ngoni has a sweet lilting sound that can also rock, especially with judicious use of wah-wah pedal, and in the hands of Bassekou Kouyate and friends and family. Amy Sacko does the blazing lead vocals. Beautiful.

Random reading

Sometimes you just have to pick it up and read it, not knowing exactly what to expect.

Tears of the Trufflepig

Fernando A. Flores
The cover of this book, with its unappealing title, caught my eye at the local library. A near-future political dystopia, somewhere on the Texas-Mexico border... why not? It's a good read, reminiscent in style of Karen Russell's Swamplandia!, with its touch of magic realism, humor, dread, and local flavor, along with the humanism at the core of the main characters. Add to that two (count 'em) border walls and trafficking in genetically engineered designer animals, and you have what strikes me as a fully plausible storyline ripped from the headlines of 2030.

Onward and Upward in the Garden
Katharine S. White
Consisting of her collected reviews of garden catalogues, starting in 1958. Seeds, bulbs, and roses. I kid you not. I don't garden much, and when I do it's not even close to the kind of gardening White engaged in. So why am I compelled to read on, season after season, hybrid after hybrid? It's the writer's voice, of course...
By August a flower garden, at least on the coast of eastern Maine, where I live, can be at its best—and at its worst. Most of one's successes are apparent, and all of one's failures. For me, this year, heavy memories remain from spring of the disaster area in the north bed of old-fashioned roses, where field mice, hungry under a snowdrift, stripped the bark off the bushes and killed two-thirds of them. Like all disaster areas, this one is still, although replanted, rather bleak. A more recent sorrow is the sudden death on the terrace of a well-established Jackmani clematis, which turned black overnight just as its big purple blossoms were opening. There are numerous theories in the household about this loss—too heavy a dose of fertilizer, too much watering, too strong a spray drifting over from the nearby rose beds, a disease still undiagnosed. My own theory is dachshund trouble. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Game 4 and Dark Magus

This has got to be one of the most god-awful sloppiest-ass first halves of basketball I have ever seen, Klay aside. I watched with the sound off while listening for my first time ever to Miles's Dark Magus, a relentless masterpiece of funk-noise. Hard to imagine what the Carnegie Hall audience back in 1974 made of Pete Cosey shredding and Dave Liebman and Azar Lawrence honking and squawking. The Miles recordings of these years went somewhere music has never gone before and probably never will again.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Dr. John, RIP

American music is the best music, and New Orleans music is the best American music, and though Dr. John may not have been the best of New Orlean music, he was pretty damn good.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Panda's Thumb is my Achilles' Heel

A sesamoid bone "is a bone embedded within a tendon or a muscle." In the ball of your foot, the two little metatarsophalangeal sesamoid bones can become inflamed and cause a small world o' pain. As they are doing in my left foot as I write.

Until reading the Wikipedia entry, I had not known (or had forgotten) that the panda's thumb, as made famous by Stephen Jay Gould, is in fact a sesamoid bone. I'm happy for the pandas, who can use that sesamoid to grasp and strip tasty bamboo leaves from a branch. As for me, it feels as if somebody shoved a bamboo sliver right into the ball of my foot. Nothing a little ibuprofen and ice can't cure... for now... I hope...

The bad dream that is Trump

Every time Laura expresses justified outrage at the latest Trumpian outrage, I remind her that we should be very thankful that Donald Trump is an incompetent idiot... that he really hasn't done all that much permanent harm. In this regard, I am very much in agreement with Kevin Drum. Of course Trump is appalling, and the sooner we are rid of him the better. But almost any currently influential Republican you can think of would probably have done more damage as president– it's just that he (yes, I presume he) would not have been as downright embarrassing.